Night Train to Munich

Now available in a flawless restoration from Criterion, this 1940 comedy-spy thriller was a non-sequel follow-up to Alfred Hitchcock‘s final British masterpiece of lighthearted suspense, “The Lady Vanishes.” Leading lady Margaret Lockwood was on board to star in a second wittily askew, fast-paced script from writers Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, who deserved as much acclaim as their director and knew it. Hitchcock, however, had left permanently for Hollywood and male lead Michael Redgrave was unavailable. A young Rex Harrison (“My Fair Lady”) stepped in as a dashing and egotistical British agent charged with rescuing a pretty Czechoslovakian (Lockwood) and her weapons scientist father (James Harcourt) from Nazi captivity on the eve of world war. Replacing Hitchcock, Carol Reed (“The Third Man”) didn’t mess a step. Also returning are masters of comic understatement Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, back for more train-based foreign intrigue as the cricket-obsessed duo, Charters and Caldicott. New on board is Paul Henreid (“Casablanca”), playing a Czech concentration camp escapee who is no Victor Laszlo. A hit in its day, “Night Train” has been overshadowed by its predecessor, but it’s only a little less brilliant, with obvious miniature effects that embarrassed Reed and marred the climax slightly, and some too-obvious plot holes. Directly addressing World War II, it does have a more modern feel than “The Lady Vanishes,” however, with black comic echoes of “To Be or Not to Be” and ironic foreshadows of James Bond and, yup, “Inglourious Basterds.”

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Your end of week movie news dump

A ton has happened since my last of these posts and I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but here are just a few of the interesting things going on in the movie world as this rather loony week finally ends.

* Bryan Singer will be producing, not directing, the next “X-Men” prequel. He’ll be directing “Jack, the Giant Killer” instead. And another Mike Fleming story, an exclusive this time: “Paranormal Activity 2” has a director. He’s Tod Williams, best known for “The Door in the Floor.” Sounds to me like Paramount is keeping things modest, wisely.

* The very ill Dennis Hopper got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today.  Amy Kaufman has video of the ceremony which included Hopper rather gently chiding the paparazzi for an incident which caused him to fall. The video itself ends with photographers yelling “Viggo!” and “Jack!”

* Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe as Robin will be opening Cannes this year. The plot description put me somewhat in mind of the angle the great director Richard Lester and writer James Goldman took on the legend in a film I’m quite partial to, “Robin and Marian,” which starred Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.

robin-hood-russell-crowe-and-his-merry-men

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